Seizures are defined as abnormal movements or behavior due to electrical activity in the brain. Seizures might include shaking and convulsions, and can last a few seconds or over 5 minutes. Seizures have many causes and can lead to brain damage or even death. Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain. Diagnosis occurs when a person has had two or more seizures. There are many types of seizures.

Possible signs of a seizure include, but are not limited to:

  • Brief blackout followed by a period of confusion;
  • Changes in behavior;
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth;
  • Eye movements;
  • Shaking of the entire body;
  • Grunting or snorting;
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control;
  • Sudden falling;
  • Teeth clenching;
  • Tasting a bitter or metallic flavor;
  • Temporary stop in breathing;
  • Uncontrollable muscle spasms with twitching and jerking limbs; and
  • Mood changes such as sudden anger, unexplainable fear, paranoia, joy or laughter

Your role if someone has a seizure:

Always follow the protocol provided by the person’s healthcare provider. If there is no protocol, provide a cushion for their head and remove glasses; loosen tight clothing; turn on side; don’t put anything in the person’s mouth; don’t hold the person down; as seizure ends, offer help. Most seizures are not medical emergencies, however call 911 if:

  • The person’s protocol says to call 911;
  • The seizure last longer than 5 minutes or one seizure follows another;
  • The person does not resume normal breathing after seizure;
  • There is no medical ID and no history of seizures;
  • There is an injury;
  • The person is pregnant or has diabetes;
  • The seizure happens in water; or
  • The person requests an ambulance.

seizure first aid chart

You should also immediately notify your supervisor and follow your agency’s documentation rules.

People at risk for seizures include, but are not limited to, those who have:

  • A history of seizures,
  • Had a head injury,
  • Had brain infections,
  • Had a stroke,
  • Had a brain tumor,
  • Alzheimer’s disease, and
  • Genetic factors.